There are many young talented biologists who are looking for jobs in the North of the Netherlands, according to Bioclear Earth, an innovation and consultancy company for soil, water, and the climate.
Two representatives from Bioclear Earth sat down with Make it in the North to discuss hiring internationals, what they like about Groningen, and more.
“Groningen is the youngest city in the Netherlands in terms of its population. The university has a really strong biology department. So I think this is really good for us,” explains Eline Keuning who is one of Bioclear Earth’s consultants on biotechnology and innovation.
“Maybe because we’re in the North, we’re also sometimes a bit more eager to do new things to kind of prove ourselves. This makes the atmosphere here really good for a company like ours,” she adds.
Company director Sytze Keuning studied in Groningen and opened the company here in 1988. He hasn’t looked back since and today more than 80% of the work comes from other parts of the Netherlands. He also gets requests to carry out projects abroad from China, to Chile, to Denmark.
In the director’s opinion, the Netherlands isn’t that big and it’s not impossible to reach other cities from Groningen. He also found that for foreign visitors, it doesn’t matter for them if they have to go to Rotterdam, Maastricht, or Groningen from Schiphol airport as all destinations are reachable by train in a few hours. Keuning says that for people living in the Netherlands, the distances seem to be bigger than they actually are.
“Up to now, we have never encountered problems that people wouldn’t move to Groningen,” says Sytze Keuning.
What does Bioclear Earth do?
Eline Keuning explains that the company uses microbes to clean up soils. If an area needs cleaning, they study it and apply their knowledge of microbiology to clean up its soils and even the groundwater. They’re also expanding the areas they operate in. While they previously used biology to clean things up, now they’re thinking of ways they can use biology to produce things.
Was it always open to hiring internationals?
“As far as I know, yes,” says Eline Keuning. While in principle nothing was preventing them from hiring internationals, in the company’s early days all assignments were conducted in Dutch. That made it tricky for people not fluent in the language to participate.
“But now the field is kind of changing,” Keuning explains. “Projects are becoming more international, so people are actively looking to collaborate more. And I think this sort of translates into the composition of our team, since we are also becoming more international,” she says.
Bioclear Earth is now also sponsoring candidates from outside the EU that want to work in the Netherlands.
While today English is commonly used within Bioclear Earth, Keuning tries to teach the internationals Dutch expressions so that they can feel more included in the day-to-day conversations in the office.
Employees are encouraged to pursue a Dutch course and every now and then, the Bioclear Earth team tries to speak in Dutch at the office to help people learn the language.
“We are noticing that people can pick up the language rather quickly. In about 6 months to a year, they start talking Dutch if you give them the opportunity to do so,” says Sytze Keuning.
Who should work for Bioclear Earth?
“To come work here you’re on top of the game of molecular biology, bioinformatics, but you don’t want to play in a research setting, like at the university, but more in the real world,” says Eline Keuning. It’s for people that want to do interesting scientific work and are able to explain what they’re doing to people coming from different fields.
Ideal candidates typically enjoy putting science into practice. They’re open to learning new things, digging into literature, and challenging themselves. It can get a bit loud in the Bioclear Office so enthusiastic, energetic, and upbeat people may find it easier to fit in.
If you’re interested, send an open application!
Eline Keuning’s advice for people interested in a job at Bioclear Earth is to send an open application.
For those unfamiliar with this concept, it’s basically like an application you would send for any other job vacancy including a CV and cover letter. Except in this case there isn’t a publicly listed vacancy.
“If you’re really excited to work here, I would write an open application. We take them really seriously. I think actually quite a few of our colleagues came to work here based on an open application and not because we had a vacancy. So it’s not just something we say. This really happens,” says Eline Keuning.
For those sending an open application, Keuning suggests highlighting why you want to work at a place and explaining your personal story.
“I think those letters always resonate the most with me, like if you put something of yourself in the letter,” she said.
Company director Sytze Keuning looks for the qualities of the person applying and evaluates what they can bring to the table. In the past, positions have been created for exceptional candidates.
Interview by Daindra W. Utami and Julia Dumchenko
This article is part of Make it in the North‘s company spotlight series that highlights Northern companies hiring internationals.